Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 755-773, 201 1
An Italian Spiritualist and Psychical Researcher
choylifut / 985@alice. it
Submitted: 2/17/2011; Accepted: 4/11/2011
Abstract — Ernesto Bozzano (1862-1943) was a luminary in psychical and
spiritualistic studies in Italy, to which he contributed numerous publications
that were also distributed abroad, and for more than forty years he tirelessly
defended "human survival after death" against its critics. This article, after a
brief look at the studies dedicated to him. furnishes a profile of the life and
thinking of Bozzano, paying particular attention to the events that brought
him to the eyes of the international community of psychical researchers.
Keywords: Ernesto Bozzano — Italian psychical research — spiritualism —
Ernesto Bozzano (1862-1943) was probably the most important Italian
representative of psychical and spiritualistic studies before the 1940s, as
well as one of the few to emerge on the international scene, thanks to his
numerous publications which gained him the esteem of scientists, philosophers,
and psychical researchers. He was at the center of an intense network of
correspondence with Italian, European, and American intellectuals, receiving
an average of 200 letters a month, and was furthermore one of the few Italian
scholars to have been named an honorary member of the Society for Psychical
Research (SPR), the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR), and the
Institut Metapsychique International (IM1). Despite the fact that the academic
historian Bruno Di Porto (1933) wrote a description of him for the Dizionario
Biografico degli Italiani (Di Porto), 1 an element which testifies to his relevance,
Bozzano is completely unknown in Italy to those who do not deal with the
history of psychical research. However, this did not prevent Italian scholars
from continuing to remember him (e.g., Biondi, 1988, Inardi & Ianuzzo, 1981,
Macaluso, 1972, Orlandi, 1971) or his works from continuing to be reprinted,
even recently, in journals or by specialized publishers (e.g., Bozzano, 1948a,
1957a, 1967a, 1972, 1975, 1982, 1998a, 2001, 2008). Still cited in France (e.g.,
Clauzure, 1983, Dumas, 1973), Bozzano does not appear in some important
historical accounts of Anglo-Saxon psychical research (e.g., Beloff, 1993,
Inglis, 1977) but does appear in the bibliographies of various authors of the
same linguistic group (e.g., Stevenson, 1977, Van de Castle, 1977). Only
beginning in 1982-1983, coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of his death,
did some historians of psychical research begin to study him in more depth
(Biondi, 1984, lannuzzo, 1982, 1983a, 1983b, Ravaldini, 1983). From this
renewed interest, there were only two critical volumes regarding Bozzano
taken as a whole (lannuzzo, 1983b, Ravaldini, 1993a), and some more recent
articles that examine specific aspects of his biography or works (Alvarado,
1986, 1989, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, Biondi, 2010, Caratelli, 1998, Cellina,
1993, Cugnaschi, 2002).
In addition, there are the first biographical articles written by his disciple
Gastone De Boni (1908-1986) (the main ones being De Boni, 1941, 1946,
1947). There are also some autobiographical articles written by Bozzano
in his old age, which are usable with reservations (Bozzano, 1924c, 1930a,
1938a, 1939). For a more in-depth study, it is however indispensable to refer
to unpublished primary sources, among which the correspondence between
Bozzano and De Boni is indispensable for reconstructing his life. 2
The present article has, as its objective, a brief presentation of the life,
works, and thinking of Ernesto Bozzano.
Ernesto Bozzano was bom in Genoa on January 9, 1 862, the fourth son of a
lower-middle-class Genoese family, but we know very little of his childhood,
in reality of his entire life up to 1928; by his own admission, that part of his life
was without relevant biographical events, so much so that the only information
conserved regards his intellectual life. He had an early vocation for study for
which he received no support since, when he was fourteen years old, he was
taken out of school in order to begin a commercial career. Other than this brief
experience of work in his youth and a similar brief journalistic collaboration
with the Genoese daily newspaper II Secolo XIX around 1 893, of which there
is no trace, he never needed to work. Since he lived with his brother Vittorio
(I860-?), and was in part economically supported by his well-to-do brother
Adolfo (1859-?) and probably had a small income sufficient to maintain a
secluded lifestyle, Bozzano was able to dedicate all his time to studying and
writing. In fact, he managed to study by himself, dedicating himself first to
poetry and literature, then to the sciences, and finally to philosophy, his great
passion. He became a supporter of positivism and a fervent follower of the
British philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) who, in the 1880s, was
Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher
his habitual correspondent together with William James (1842-1910), Alfred
Russel Wallace (1823-1913), Theodule Ribot (1839-1916), Jean-Marie Guyau
(1854-1888), and Henri Bergson (1859-1941) (Letter from Savona, 7 May
1941, unpublished, in Bozzano & De Boni, 1930-1943).
The biographical and autobiographical articles present Bozzano’s interest
in spiritualism and psychical research as a philosophical and rational conversion
from materialism (a total negation of phenomena) todemolition ofhis misoneism
and, finally, to spiritualism (e.g.. De Boni, 1941:14 and on), but numerous
other data do not correspond to these facts. On the basis of lannuzzo’s studies
(1983b) and mine, it is much more probable that Bozzano was already inclined
toward spiritualism in 1890 and that his presumed conversion, completed in
1 893, was, in reality, reached after three years of psychical and spiritualistic
readings, but, above all, after three years of going to a mediumistic Genoese
club whose culminating event had been the apparition ofhis dead mother in a
seance in July 1 893.
Independently of the problem of this conversion, what is certain is that,
until 1943, Bozzano never stopped dedicating himself to psychical research,
or metapsichica ( metapsychique or metapsychical research) as it was called in
continental Europe, understood as a single science capable of demonstrating the
existence of the spirit and its survival after bodily death as opposed to religion,
which was too dogmatic, and official science, which was too materialistic.
Bozzano’s methodological approach was specific and comparable to that of
an eighteenth-century naturalist; he did not carry out experiments or directly
gather testimony because he did not feel the necessity of proving the existence
of the psychic, but he summarized the accounts of the phenomena present in the
literature (which he patiently classified during his entire life) as immediately
valid natural phenomena, and he inserted them into an inductive process based
on comparative analysis and convergence of proofs; in other words, he pointed
out all the likenesses of a certain class of phenomena and reached specific
conclusions. Therefore, his monographs were created in order to
collect an adequate number of events . . ., carefully selected from the point of
view of their authenticity as facts, in order to then classify, analyze and com-
pare them, and deduce the laws which govern them.” (Bozzano. 1972:228)
The monograph Dei Fenomeni di "Bilocazione” ( The Phenomena of
“ Bilocation ”) (Bozzano, 1934) can furnish a concrete cross-section of his
procedural method. In this monograph, Bozzano held that the phenomena of
bilocation “assume decisive importance for the experimental demonstration
of the existence and survival of the human spirit” (Bozzano, 1934:7) since
it would prove that, in the somatic body, an etheric body exists, capable of
making oneself autonomous, often carrying along with itself consciousness,
memory, identity, and its own other supernormal faculties, thus ending up
with independence of the spirit from the body and subordination of the brain
to the mind. He reached this conclusion after having analyzed four categories
of phenomena. The first included the cases of sensitivity in amputees and
hemiplegics; discarding the neurological explanations, Bozzano believed he
was dealing with the initial levels of bilocation. In the second, we find the cases
in which a subject would see his own double; although accepting the possible
pathological explanation with reserve, for Bozzano these cases represented, as
a general rule, the second level of incipient bilocation, the transition between
being both inside and outside one’s own body. In the third group, he placed all
the cases in which consciousness would be completely transferred to the etheric
double which verified the sensation of seeing reality from a position external to
one’s own physical body. Finally, in the fourth group, there were the cases in
which the etheric double was seen by one or more people. Considering all the
categories cumulatively and taking the cases of this last group as crucial proof
of their intersubjectivity, Bozzano thought he had scientifically deduced some
conclusions from some facts that were evident for him but which were often
not “self-evident facts” but rather an “interpretation of the cases he considered”
(Alvarado, 2005:228). In any case, in order to understand his methods, a
quotation from his work can be useful:
As soon as the processes of comparative analysis are applied to hundreds
of similar episodes in which all the gradations which employ this phenom-
enology are represented, [there can no longer exist any doubts regarding the]
objectivity of the phenomenon itself; in the sense that the “dreamlike” and
“hallucinatory” hypotheses must be excluded and they are also the only ones
which are opposed to the phenomena. (Bozzano, 1934:124)
If, for Bozzano, the phenomena of bilocation represented the passage from
animism to spiritism, the phenomena of transcendental music dealt with in the
monograph Musica Trascendentale ( Transcendental Music) (Bozzano, 1982)
were instead of clear spiritual genesis. In this monograph, he subdivided the
phenomena into six classes, even if, dealing with animistic phenomena, he
dedicated less space to the first two (musical mediumship and transcendental
music with telepathic extemalization). The classes of transcendental music of
haunting origin, of music perceived without a relationship to events dealing
with death, music at the deathbed, and music which is manifested after an event
dealing with death would instead be, cumulatively taken, reliable testimony of
spiritual intervention. In fact, from the moment that musical phenomenology was
often externalized together with apparitions of the dead person at the deathbed,
in such a way as to prove the spiritual identification of a dear deceased person
who comes to assist the dying person, because of the numerous cases in which
Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher
music was heard by everyone
present and, sometimes, by all of
them except the dying person, and
as a result of the cases in which
the music was heard on fixed
dates after the death of someone,
Bozzano was certain that, thanks
to his demonstrative process, the
hallucinatory and psychometric
explanations as well as suggestion
and telepathy among the living
could be discarded in favor of
the spiritual explanation of the
phenomenon. Also in the case of
transcendental music, the gradual
exposition of the phenomenology
permitted Bozzano to exclude the
antagonistic hypotheses step by
step and to guide the reader, by means of the convergence of the proofs, to
understand how “the numerous branches of metaphysics (. . .) all converge as a
center toward the experimental demonstration of the existence and survival of
the human spirit” (Bozzano, 1982:156-157).
Bozzano, therefore, understood science as a process of researching
truth, carried out rigorously starting from the facts, and capable of rationally
demonstrating conclusions using comparative analysis and the convergence
of proofs. It is understood that, on the basis of this assumption, metapsichica
also, at least as he saw it, was to all effects a science, and that Bozzano the
spiritualist and Bozzano the psychical researcher were one and the same.
In 1899, in Genoa, Bozzano and the writer Luigi Arnaldo Vassallo
(1852—1906) founded the Circolo Scientifico Minerva (Minerva Science
Club), which had as its aim the scientific study of mediumistic phenomena
and the promotion of debates and publications regarding them (Minerva,
1899). Many people of the Genoese middle class joined, including without
a doubt Francesco Porro (1861-1937) the astronomer and Enrico Morselli
(1852-1929), the celebrated psychiatrist who, for his honest and impartial
attitude regarding research, compared this Club to a small SPR (Morselli.
1908:vol. I, 174). The principal activity of this Club in 1901-1902 was to
study the medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918), which led to various
publications by its members (the most important were Bozzano, 1903, 1904.
Morselli, 1908, Vassallo, 1992). In 1904, the Club was dissolved as a result of
disagreement among the members.
Ernesto Bozzano, at about forty years old.
Since, from 1890 on, Bozzano followed the developments of his discipline
with attention (he dedicated notable energy to constant reading, writing,
analysis, and critiques of numerous publications), many of his writings took
the form of critical reviews of his colleagues’ texts, many of whom were also
friends, thus generating small disputes, always carried out with logical strictness
and politeness. Their common characteristic was that of wanting to nip in the
bud the theories contrary to the hypothesis of human survival. Among the most
relevant debates, we recall that which took place with Morselli and went on
from 1899 to 1917; since Morselli denied the spiritual hypothesis, Bozzano
opposed Morselli regarding the phenomena of the etheric body, of apport, of
identification of spiritual personalities and reincarnation, challenging him many
times to deny that, from these facts, the existence of a soul surviving a body
and the intervention of the deceased was able to be deduced (Gasperini, 2010).
Nobel Prize winner and psychical researcher Charles Richet (1850-1935),
who, by upholding the hypothesis of the crypiesihesie (cryptesthesia), a faculty
of superior cognition but at the human level, was not, according to Bozzano,
able to explain many undoubtedly spiritual facts, such as the phenomena of
telekinesis at the deathbed, those of haunting, those of transcendental music
or the cases of identification of deceased people unknown to the medium and
those present at the seances (Bozzano, 1922a, 1922b, 1922c. Richet, 1922a,
1922b, 1922c) 3 . There was also biologist and psychical researcher William
Mackenzie (1877-1970), advocate of the polypsychical hypothesis used to
explain the mediumistic personalities without resorting to spiritualism; for
Bozzano, the fact that, notwithstanding the constant changing of participants
at the seances, the mediumistic personalities maintained their own identity was
more than sufficient to hold that the opposing thesis was destroyed (Bozzano,
1923a, 1923b, Mackenzie, 1923a, 1923b). And psychical researcher Rene
Sudre (1880-1968) explained the phenomena of intelligent mediumship with
the prosopopese-metagnomie, that is attributing them to the latent subconscious
personality in the mind of the medium, capable of producing anomalous facts.
Elaborating on the theories of Richet, Bozzano disproved the hypothesis of
the prosopopese using the same reasoning advanced against cryptesthesie
(Bozzano, 1926, Sudre, 1926).
The majority of the debates were carried out in the journal Luce e
Ombra ( Lo ), which from 1900 on became the principal publication of Italian
spiritualism (Alvarado, Biondi, & Kramer, 2006). From 1906 to 1939 when Lo
was made to close by the fascist regime, Bozzano was the principal contributor
to the journal with his contribution of almost 4,000 pages, thanks to which
he acquired considerable notoriety, above all abroad; starting in 1920, he also
regularly published articles in the most important English, French, American,
and South American spiritualistic and psychical journals. In Italy, he published
Ernesto Rozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher
approximately 90 volumes that, starting from 1920, were translated into nine
different languages, such as English, French, German, and Turkish (Alvarado,
1986, De Boni, 1941, Ravaldini, 2000) and reviewed critically in the most
important psychical and spiritualistic journals. Although agreeing that Bozzano
was one of the greatest scholars in the field of psychical research, the reviewers
often criticized his methodology, e.g., Troubridge (1919) accused him of
accepting too quickly the reality of the phenomenon whose existence he had
to demonstrate; Wilson (1933) repeated the same argument, while Saltmarsh
(1938) judged his reasoning with regard to the biological evolution and the
independence of the spirit from the body to be completely erroneous. Collins
(1939) criticized him for assuming as proven some facts that could be defined as
arbitrary, and, in Nature, the spiritistic hypothesis of Bozzano was defined to be
of scarce interest for the skeptics but merited in-depth study for the enthusiasts
of psychical studies (Review of Discarnate Influence in Human Life, 1938).
In France. Quartier (1927a, 1927b) described Bozzano as a sage of the pre-
scientific era because of his non-use of the experimental method, and even
Count Cesar Baudi de Vesme (1862-1938) criticized his esteemed colleague,
so certain of the reality of psychical phenomena and the explanatory value of
the spiritistic hypothesis that he never doubted it, for omitting, among other
things, in an unfair manner, topics that were contrary (de Vesme, 1934, 1936).
From 1927 to 1929, Bozzano was called on to cover the role of expert in
noted mediumistic experiences, such as the seances of Millesimo; these were
a series of seances held in the ancient castle of Millesimo, a picturesque town
not far from Savona (Italy), and presided over by Marquis Carlo Centurione
Scotto ( 1 862-1937), Senator and medium, during which numerous direct voice
and apport phenomena were supposedly verified, culminating in the presumed
dematerialization and successive materialization of the Marquis himself,
occurring on July 29, 1928 (Ferraro. 1989). Thanks to accounts published in Lo
by Bozzano (Bozzano, 1927b, 1927c, 1928a, 1928b, 1928c. 1928d), which were
then collected into one volume (Bozzano, 1929b) and disseminated abroad also
thanks to his collaborators (e.g., Bozzano, 1928e, 1929d, 1929e, 1930e, Hack,
1930), the seances obtained vast visibility, throwing the international research
community into turmoil. Officially, he upheld the veracity of the happenings
and the unquestionable intervention of the disembodied entities, 4 drawing upon
himself first the criticism of psychical researcher Rudolph Lambert ( 1 866—
1 964) (Bozzano, 1929a, 1929c, 1930b, I930d, Lambert, 1929, 1930) and then
that of the exponent of the SPR, Theodore Besterman (1904- 1976) (Besterman,
1930). The answer to the English scholar was given for him by an indignant Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle (1 859-1930), who dismayed by the attacks that his Italian
friend was undergoing resigned from his role as honorary member of the SPR
(Doyle, 1930), taking with him 77 members (Mauskopf & McVaugh, 1980:28).
The seances at Millesimo, together with those with Palladino at the Circolo
Scientifico Minerva about thirty years earlier (Bozzano, 1903), were the only
two experiments worth noting in the course of his research, which was otherwise
carried out almost exclusively in written analyses of books and articles. Space
does not permit the chronicling of the eloquent and detailed accounts of the
seances that Bozzano published; however, according to those who have written
about it, it seems that the scholar went to the seances, on both occasions,
already profoundly convinced of the reality of the facts to which he would have
attested, and of the authenticity of the mediums. This can be deduced by his
lack of doubts and from his critical tone against the skeptics (e.g., Bozzano,
1903:362-363) as well as from the clearly demonstrative presentation of the
events narrated, not simple events to explain to readers and to assess critically,
but compelling results of experimentation demonstrating the intervention
of disincamate intelligence. Our affirmation is also supported by the weight
Bozzano gave to the evidence of the facts and, in particular, to psychological
control: To whoever contested the lack of verification of the mediums at the
seances of Millesimo, he responded that their psychological profile, namely
being aristocrats, cultured, and rich, meant therefore automatically that they
were not interested in committing fraud, as well as the clear evidence for
paranormal phenomenology could not but render clearly truthful all his
accounts and exempt him from subjecting the mediums to humiliating anti-
fraud verification (e.g., Bozzano, 1929a). Let us be clear, we do not want to
insinuate anything nefarious regarding the Genoese psychical researcher and
his honesty, but simply to demonstrate how his behavior could seem suspect, or
at least naive, to many of his contemporaries.
Thanks to the wide dissemination of his writings, Bozzano managed to
begin a correspondence and friendship not only with Conan Doyle but also
with many other psychical researchers, scientists, and philosophers of that era,
such as William Crookes (1832-1919), Henry Sidgwick (1838-1900), Oliver
Lodge (1851-1940), Camille Flammarion (1842-1925), and James Hyslop
(1854-1920), with the Italian philosopher and psychologist Angelo Brofferio
(1846-1894), with Italian psychiatrists Enrico Morselli and Cesare Lombroso
(1835-1909), and also with many others (Letter from Genoa, 6 October 1942,
unpublished, in Bozzano & De Boni, 1 930—1943). But he also received a lot of
letters from non-scholars who were greatly consoled by him and the doctrines
he proposed. Unfortunately, almost all his correspondence has been lost
But, as the Gospel says: nemo propheia in patria [never a prophet in his
own country]. In fact, in Italy, the works of Bozzano were not very well-known
outside the circle of readers of Lo or its staff; of these, positive comments on
his works came, other than from De Boni (e.g., De Boni, 1946, 1947), from
Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher
two important Italian psychical researchers, Emilio Servadio (1904-1995), who
extolled the argumentative force of Bozzano (Servadio 1931, 1934), and from
Antonio Bruers (1880-1954), who was certainly more cautious regarding the
Genoese scholar in accepting the evidence of some alleged spiritualistic facts
(Bruers, 1929, 1930). The situation greatly improved when De Boni made an
agreement with the publisher L’Albero of Verona (Italy) and began publishing
the opera omnia of Bozzano 5 ; the first volume Popoli Primitivi e Manifestazioni
Supernormal i ( Primitive Cultures and Supernormal Manifestations) in 1941
(Bozzano, 1941) 6 was a big success and attracted the attention of a goodly
number of Italian intellectuals, above all anthropologists and religious and
oriental historians such as Giuseppe Tucci (1894-1984), Raffaele Pettazzoni
(1883-1959), and Ernesto de Martino (1908-1965), who critiqued it in
newpapers and specialized journals (e.g., de Martino, 1941, Gasperini, 2011)
and began a brief correspondence with Bozzano (unpublished correspondence).
Outside of Italy, an enthusiastic reader of Popoli Primitivi was Carl Gustav
Jung (1875-1961) (De Boni, 1949).
Bozzano died on June 24, 1943, from circulatory complications, and his
death was mentioned in Italian and French spiritualistic and psychical journals
(De Boni, 1947, Necrologie, 1946, Weissenbach, 1949).
Outline of the Metapsychical Philosophy
Between 1922 and 1943, Bozzano produced and updated his most important
monographs which, together with his articles, permitted the reconstruction
of the central points of his thinking and the ordering of them into a scheme,
something which he had never formally done. 7 As lannuzzo (1982) also noted,
that which seemed to emerge when studying Bozzano’s works, was the attempt
that he made, probably based on the body of Spencerian philosophy, to create a
“metapsychical philosophy” capable of interpreting and coherently connecting
paranormal phenomena, above all considering the demonstration of human
survival, the topic which interested him primarily, but also secondarily deriving
some notions of metaphysical and cosmological order of the general guiding
hypotheses with which to return and compare the psychic phenomena in order
to justify and organize them in a wider perspective, namely that of the spiritual
evolution of the universe (Cugnaschi, 2002). Indeed, the latter subject rarely
emerges from his writings and certainly does not distinguish itself for originality
from a conceptual point of view, but it is equally an unpublished mixture of
Spencerian philosophical tenets and paranormal phenomena assumed to be
At the root of his metapsychical philosophy, Bozzano posed his “Spiritistic
hypothesis” which was not immediately synonomous with spiritualism, but
rather a criterium ofthe interpretation of paranormal phenomena which only later
on pointed to the veracity of spiritualism. With this hypothesis, he maintained
that paranormal, physical, and intellectual phenomena were products and
proof of the existence of a spirit as well as an active and immaterial principle
independent of the body, and which due to these characteristics cannot help but
survive them inasmuch as the spirit is incarnate by life to certain phenomena
(telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, etc.) which Bozzano called “Animistic”
(or psychobiodynamic) and since the spirit is disembodied from life in the
other categories of phenomena (communication with the dead, apparitions
at the deathbed, transcendental music, etc.) which he called “Spiritistic” (or
transcendental). As Bozzano wrote in a work expressly dedicated to this subject,
supernormal phenomena (. . .) are the effects of a single cause and it is the
human spirit which, when it is manifested fleetingly during the incarnate ex-
istence, determines Animistic phenomena, and when manifested under con-
ditions of disembodiment in the world of the living it determines Spiritistic
phenomena. (Bozzano. 1967a:295)*
All in all, the spiritic hypothesis is quite simple; the vast amount of the
writings and subjects that he produced to support it is, if anything, magnificent
and is Bozzano’s real contribution to psychical research. Above all, the
discourse on the autonomy of “subconscious supernormal faculties,” namely
the faculties of the incarnate spirit which is positioned in the subconscious,
is, to all effects, the reservoir for psychic phenomena. For example, the fact
that telepathy and clairvoyance emerged on rare occasions of severe physical
and psychical weakening, as the mediums and people in the state of mesmeric
sleep demonstrated, for Bozzano meant that they were completely useless in
this life since the potential senses of the incarnate spirit would become real
only when this spirit would have passed through the crisis of death (Bozzano,
1 899, 1 924d). For Bozzano, another strong proof in favor of the autonomy of
the bodily spirit was the evident independence of supernormal faculties from
the laws of natural selection, based on their uselessness in the struggle for
life (Bozzano, 1923c). Bozzano resolved the mind-body problem utilizing
the concept of the etheric body which envelops the incarnate spirit linking it
to the body but is also capable of breaking off, bringing with it the individual
consciousness and the integral subconscious memory contained in the etheric
brain, the true seat of thinking for which the somatic brain only serves as an
interpreter of physical sensations (Bozzano, 1930c, 1 93 1 ). 9
From the preceding considerations, together with the conviction that the
spirit is also present in animals, with them having the same subconscious
faculties as man (Bozzano, 1975), and the belief in the faculty of thought and
willingness to mould the subject which, according to Bozzano, appeared to
emerge from the phenomena of ideoplasty and ectoplasmy (Bozzano, 1967b,
Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher
1967c), Bozzano deduced a cosmological theory reconstructable from some
writings that went beyond pure psychical research. In summary, he believed
that the universe was in continuous evolution and that the true evolutive
motor was the spirit which had to pass through all the inferior animal forms
until reaching man in order to finally reach a perfect state of existence in the
spiritual sphere (Bozzano, 1967b); the evolution of the individual spirits falls
within the end of the evolution of the great universal spirit, God or Absolute
or Unknowable, which is both intelligence tinged with material reality and
the material itself, constructed and supported, thanks to its most fundamental
material expressions: Force, Motion, Energy, and Ether (Bozzano, 1924b). For
Bozzano, this form of idealistic and evolutionist pantheism was not only, as was
said, a working hypothesis used as a theoretical framework but also, together
with all that happened after the birth of spiritualism, a new form of rational
religious revelation not antagonistic to Christian thinking (Bozzano, 1927a).
Although implied in all his writings, the theme of survival after bodily
death is the specific object of the controversial monograph La Crisi della Morte
(The Crisis of Death) in which Bozzano attempted to demonstrate human
survival, speaking about the environment and the conditions of spiritual life
using transcendental communications, namely all that copious information
received directly from the dead by direct writing or mediumistic dictation right
from the beginning of the spiritualistic movement (Bozzano, 1 998b). Bozzano
believed that communication is an instrument indispensible for proving the
reality of disembodied entities since these can furnish information regarding
their own identity and, vice versa, information regarding their identity proves
that communication was taking place with a dead person. We are dealing with
very slippery ground and even Bozzano (1996) understood this; exactly for
this reason, he stated a list of proofs in favor of the spiritualistic hypothesis
he held to be unattackable by countertheories: the existence of subconscious
supernormal faculties free of biological evolution, time, and space; bilocation;
apparition of the dead at the deathbed; premonitions of accidental death; cross-
correspondence between mediumistic communications received by mediums
who are not together and cannot communicate; apparitions of the dead.
Implicitly, this list was an invitation to globally consider paranormal
phenomena since only globally would they have furnished an incontestable
demonstration of the spiritualistic hypothesis. Bozzano was loyal to his
own intention since, with his monographs, he collected all paranormal
phenomenology, thus constructing the empiric base and the construction
of indirect proof (psychic phenomena) and direct proof (spiritualistic
phenomena) he required. For example, among the most important monographs
dedicated to psychic phenomena, we find the one dealing with the phenomena
of bilocation (Bozzano, 1934), 10 that dealing with clairvoyance (Bozzano,
1947a), that dealing with telepathy (Bozzano, 1946a), and the triptych
dealing with premonition in which he also espoused his solution to the ancient
determinism-free will dilemma (Bozzano, 1947b, 1947c, 1948a). Regarding
the spiritualistic phenomena, he dealt with telekinesis phenomena in relation
to the crisis of death which he attributed to the participation of the dead
(Bozzano, 1948b)," experiences of an auditory nature at the deathbed as well
as cases of trancendental music (Bozzano, 1 982), the apparition of the dead at
the deathbed (Bozzano, 1947b), haunting (Bozzano, 1936), and also polyglot
mediumistic phenomena (Bozzano, 1946b). At the end of each monograph,
he stated with certainty that had reached logical and necessary conclusions
regarding the existence of supernormal faculties independent of the strict
dictates of time, space, and natural selection with regard to the existence of
disembodied spirits capable of interfering in the daily events of the living.
The thirst for proof brought Bozzano to also devote himself to phenomena
which took place at other times and places; he wrote to reaffirm the veracity
of the events of some precursors of the spiritualistic movement (Bozzano,
1957a, 1957b, 2001), to demonstrate the hand of the spirits in the composition
of the supposed works dictated psychographically or produced by direct
writing (Bozzano, 1998a), and he concluded with the grandiose attempt of
complete recognition of the paranormal on the part of primitive cultures
Bozzano was deeply convinced of his Spiritistic hypothesis and therefore
spent 50 years of his life collecting his immense paranormal record of cases in
order to demonstrate them scientifically, so that no one could any longer voice
doubts about them. He built a solid reputation as a psychical researcher, but
it is evident that the image which has survived is that of a spiritualist (Fodor,
1933:36). If we keep this in mind, together with the fact that, since the 1930s,
parapsychology has moved on different tracks from those of Bozzano and
has, above all, become a discipline conducted in the English language (e.g.,
Mauskopf & McVaugh, 1980), and that in Italy this area of study is languishing,
we can form a rough idea of why the conclusions of Bozzano have not recently
been taken into consideration.
In effect, the methods of Bozzano, which lannuzzo (1983a) defined as
observational and naturalistic and which we can also call bibliographic, must
have seemed rather simplistic to the parapsychologists of the experimental
school. In fact, he not only made exclusive use of qualitative sources but
refused to adopt the experimental method, believing that it was not worthwhile
(Ravaldini, 1993b: 129), and, as was contested so many times (e.g., Di Porto,
no year, Inardi & lannuzzo, 1981), by taking the facts reported in the literature
Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher
as immediately valid, he ended up assuming an uncritical attitude toward his
Nevertheless, from a historical point of view, he symbolically epitomized
the interest of his time and place for spiritualism and psychical phenomena,
and to study him permits, if nothing else, a more in-depth reconstruction of
the Italian situation, in general suffering from a historiographic void on this
subject. From a more straightforward parapsychological point of view, some
attempts have been made to recover the case records and conclusions set forth
by Bozzano in his monographs, which could still be rich in suggestions and
ideas for research (e.g., Alvarado, 2005, 2008, Biondi, 2010).
1 The Dizionario Biografico clegli Italiani (acronym: DBI) is a work of highly respected
scientific value edited by the Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia, begun in 1925
and still not completed; its aim is to gather approximately 40,000 biographies having
rich bibliographies and edited by scholars, of as many illustrious Italians. Paper
publication has been interrupted, and it is now possible to consult it online at http://
2 His collection of letters is conserved at the Bozzano-De Boni Library Foundation in
Bologna (Italy) and includes 450 letters, of which 275 are unpublished. Those from
1928 to 1936 have been published(De Boni. 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977. 1978), and while
those from 1930 to 1936 have been published, with, however, some letters missing,
the bulk of the unpublished correspondence is from 1937 to 1943. In addition to the
published writings of Bozzano. approximately 150 binders of additional unpublished
material are conserved at the Foundation among which much other correspondence
and various collections of notes, citations, drafts of articles, and monographs never
published and even manuscripts of some of his most important publications are found.
The Foundation, which also publishes the journal Luce e Ombra and is one of the
most important Italian libraries of the history of spiritualism and psychical research,
is the only association which is involved in keeping the memory of Bozzano alive. For
further information, see http://www.bibliotecabozzanodeboni.it
3 Richet and Bozzano shared a professional friendship as is seen by their letters
which have been conserved. Thanks to these letters, we know that the French
scholar frequently sent his own publications dedicated to Bozzano, and many
times he proposed publishing a collection of all Bozzano’s works at his own
expense: furthermore, initially antispiritualistic. Richet attributed his attraction to
the spiritualistic hypothesis to reading Bozzano’s works. See Bozzano (1924a) and
unpublished letters: Richet-Bozzano. Paris, 14 May 1935, Paris, 31 May 1935. Paris,
28 June 1935.
4 Utilizing the unpublished material of the Bozzano-De Boni collection of letters,
Biondi (2009) strongly questioned the honesty of Bozzano and De Boni regarding
the events at Millesimo. quoting, in particular, their involvement in keeping secret the
Centurione Scotto fraud in the seance on July 29, 1928. and that of George Valiantine
in successive seances with the group of Millesimo. whose accounts have never been
5 Although De Boni (1941), with regard to the complete edition of Bozzano’s writings,
indicated 1 5,000 pages in more than 50 volumes, in the end he chose 1 7 writings,
those more theoretically important which had been updated with new material by
Bozzano between 1939 and 1943 (De Boni. 1946). Until the 1970s, De Boni did his
best to enable everybody to see the light, relying on various Italian publishing houses,
also including Edilrice Luce e Ombra which was refounded by him in 1967.
6 The majority of Bozzano’s books are monographs, specific studies on a category
of metapsychical phenomena, but Popoli Primitivi is one of the few writings to
veer away from his usual theme; with this, he attempted to shed light on the entire
paranormal phenomena of the cultures which the anthropology of that era defined as
primitive, principally African peoples, but also including Indians. Aborigines, and
Maori, in order to find the occidental case records (generated not by mediums but by
yogin, shamans, and medicine men) and the solution to the question of the origin of
religions (the observation of spiritualistic facts).
7 The only vaguely systematic work, written in 1938 (the definitive and quite different
edition was published in 1967). and for this reason definable as the clear synthesis of
his 50 years of work, is Animismo o Spirilismo? Quale dei Due Spiega il Complesso
dei Fatti? (Bozzano, 1967a). The 1938 work was also translated into English as
Discarnate Influence in Human Life (Bozzano, 1938b).
* For the formulation of this hypothesis, Bozzano was greatly inspired by the work of
Aksakof ( 1 890) which he read in French in 1895 (Aksakof, 1895). There, in fact, we
find (1 consulted the Italian translation: Aksakof, 1912) the complete formulation of
many of the points of Bozzano’s metapsychical philosophy, such as the distinction
between animistic and spiritistic phenomena, the theory according to which animistic
phenomena reside in the subconscious and are proof of the existence of an immortal
spirit free of the body, and also the importance of spiritualistic communication with
cases of identification of the deceased as the main proof in favor of survival.
9 For a more in-depth study of Bozzano (1931), also in relation to the most recent
reports of a life review in parapsychology events, see Biondi, 2010.
10 In the category of the phenomena of bilocation. Bozzano inserted a class of facts
corresponding to today’s out-of-body experiences, which, although not being
classified as such and explanations of which resorted to hypotheses of the ethereal
body and survival, had been studied for a long time. For a close examination of this
history which also deals with Bozzano from the nineteenth century until the 1980s,
see Alvarado, 1989. For a specific study of Bozzano and the phenomena of bilocation,
see Alvarado, 2005.
11 For a historical summary of these and other phenomena linked to near-death
experiences, see Alvarado, 2006. For a specific study of this monograph of Bozzano,
see Alvarado, 2008.
I wish to thank Carlos Alvarado for his suggestions.
Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher
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mediumistischen Phanomene mil hesonderer Beriicksichtigung der Hypothesen der
Hallucination und des Unbewussten (2 volumes). Leipzig: Oswald Mutze.
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Mackenzie. Luce e Ombra, 22, 104-1 12.
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de Rene Sudre. Paris: Jean Meyer Editions.
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Luce e Ombra.
Bozzano, E. (1929c). Note polcmiche in risposta al Prof. Rudolf Lambert. Luce e Ombra, 29,
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Parapsychologie, 7. 369-379.
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Parapsychologie, I, 24-32.
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Morte. Perugia: Tipography Dante.
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Bozzano, E. (1936). Dei Fenomeni d'lnfestazione (second edition). Perugia: Tipography Dante.
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Psychic Investigation and John M. Watkins.
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Ernesto Bozzano: Italian Spiritualist Researcher
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1856. Luce e Ombra, 57, 152-163.
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